One of the first things that you find out after arriving in China is that traffic rules are different from those in western countries. Well, to be precise, the laws and regulations are similar, but the interpretation that people make of them is completely different.
First, as a pedestrian, you will soon discover that crossing the road should be done in a run-for-your-life fashion. There are two types of crosswalk: the one that has a traffic light and the one that doesn’t. When I was getting my driving license in my home country, my teacher told me that I should stop before a crosswalk that doesn’t have a traffic light if there are people waiting to cross. Well, in China, the stripes painted on the road are just for decoration. If you are waiting to cross the road, innocently hoping that some car will stop and let you cross, you are wrong. Just run between two cars or you will be stuck waiting forever. On the contrary, if the crosswalk has a traffic light… well, not on the contrary. If the crosswalk has a traffic light, it is also for decoration. For drivers, a green light means they can speed up, a red light also means they can speed up, and a yellow light means they have to speed up even more. Usually, when pedestrians have a green light, there is also a green light for the cars that are turning right. So you have to run anyway. I have discussed this issue with my boyfriend and he says, even if you stop, the people won’t cross. And it is true. When we stop the car before a crosswalk, the pedestrians look at us as if wondering “What are you doing? Why are you stopping?”, and the cars behind honk like crazy.
As a driver or passenger in a car, you will experience situations you wouldn’t believe if someone told you. I am already used to see cars going backwards on the highway because they have missed their exit, cars suddenly crossing from the far left lane to the exit on the right, cars going in the opposite direction on the highway… You will also learn that taxis can fly and that on the road, big means powerful. Kneel before buses and trucks, commoner!
Locals also have a tremendously annoying habit of stopping in the middle of the road when they bump into someone else’s car. Instead of driving to the side of the road and stop there to look at the damages and wait for the police, they just stay in the middle and form a long queue behind them. A lot of apparently inexplicable traffic jams in the highway are because of this. When you finally pass them you really feel like opening the window and yelling something impolite at them.
I will most probably get my Chinese driving license next month. But I don’t think I will drive unless there is an emergency…